(Take it easy, Gray. The bag didn’t know she was your girlfriend.)
by Cage Potato contributor Elias Cepeda
Despite being undefeated, Gray Maynard (10-0) was overlooked earlier this year for a title shot in favor of a man who he had recently beat handily, Frankie Edgar. Now that Edgar has made good and won the UFC lightweight title from BJ Penn, Maynard discusses still wanting a title shot and the possibility that he may get passed over again.
Gray, there was a great case for you deserving the next title shot against BJ Penn, being undefeated and having dominated Frankie Edgar when you fought him in April of 2008. Yet, Edgar got the shot and ended up beating Penn to win the title. How closely were you watching the fight Saturday?
I was kind of checking it out of course. It didn’t really hit me until the calls were coming in and I got a ton of texts that I did really have a chance to go for the belt. Then, of course I got pumped up.
Do you view the fact that a guy who you beat solidly is now the champion as a personal validation against all the people who said you were not ready to compete for the belt?
Yeah. I just think that everybody was pumping up Penn way too much. He’s unbelievable, he’s great but there’s a lot of guys. There is Edgar, me, Tyson, Florian. He didn’t clean out a whole class. There are still a lot of fights left. I was tired of hearing that he needed to go up a weight class because he had cleared out the whole lightweight class. I feel that he had two guys that he was going up against that he looked good against but it was the styles that made him look good.
Now that the champion is someone that you’ve beaten before and that you are still undefeated, have you or your management contacted the UFC to ask for the title shot, as far as you know?
Yeah, I texted Joe Silva right afterwards saying, “Hey I’d like to go for the belt. That’s the one that I want bad.” I got a couple calls today from people saying that Penn is in some talks with the UFC about going up against Edgar again. So that’s a possibility. I would love a chance of course, that would be a dream. But if I had a chance with Florian, Penn or at the belt then I’m perfectly happy.
If you did not get the next title shot, would you consider it unfair?
It doesn’t seem unfair because it’s a business. It is. Am I glad? Probably not. But again, this is a long career. If it isn’t now, I’ll just keep going. It is not “if,” it’s “when.”
How do you have that type of patient attitude knowing how volatile the fight world is and how one loss can set you back?
Again, in the gym everyday you can tell that it’s like you’re getting a little bit better on your jiu-jitsu, every day, it’s like, that works a little bit more. This is easier now. You’ve just got a lot of tools and day in and day out it’s just a grind. It is about getting those tools sharpened.
It sounds like you are saying that you can be patient about getting a title shot because if they wait and give it to you later they will just be giving it to a better and even more prepared Gray Maynard.
Exactly. I’ll take it now, don’t get me wrong. I will take it now. A lot of people wondered why I wasn’t loud when it was between me and Edgar for the title shot. I was preparing for Nate. I know he’s a tough fight. I couldn’t really scream for Penn if I still had Nate. Then it was done, it was close and I won. Edgar got the nod the day after. I would have taken the fight in a heartbeat as well. It’s a belt, and you have to take any chance you get at it.
You’ve spoken now about how you feel you are improving every day. Frankie Edgar is a great fighter, and I know you wouldn’t say anything else, but do you believe that he is any better than he was when you beat him?
He’s improved, of course. He has the tools that he had before, he’s improved them though, of course. He’s gone up against the type of guys like Sherk, Veach, those are like the type of guys that would be easy for me as well, because they strike a little bit, try the takedowns. Me, I think I’ve gone up against lefties, jitz guys, strikers, all different types, and I think I’ve proven that that I can beat any type of guy. Tall guys, short guys, I change it up every time. I do the takedowns one fight, mix it up and stand for one. I definitely had to add a lot more because of the guys I’ve gone against.
You said you’d be good with fighting for the belt, against Penn or against Florian. One at a time now, let’s take a look at possible fights with the last two. One of your first MMA experiences was being brought in to help BJ during one of his camps. When was the last time you trained with BJ?
The last time I did work with him was on the TV [The Ultimate Fighter 5] show. I was going to go down there after the Edgar fight because he was getting prepared for Sherk but I broke my hand in the Edgar fight, in round one, I think.
You are obviously cool enough with Penn to have trained with him. It sounds from your earlier comments though that your friendship with him is secondary now to wanting to beat him if you fight him. Are the good feelings between you and him put aside now a little bit too because you have not gotten your chance at the title and you may not get it again this next time?
Obviously fighting for the title is the dream. The belt, the championship, all that stuff. I’ve been training my ass off for years and years and years. It started way before and he has too. He’s standing right there in the way of my dreams and he’s a good friend but I mean he’s standing in the way of that. I’ve got to achieve my dream.
Kenny Florian is dealing with a staph infection now, but assuming he’ll be good to go by August for the fight card in his hometown of Boston, is that a fight you would like and how do you view that one going down?
He’s good. He’s got a good name. He’s a tough kid. That would be a great one. In Boston I’d like it even better. I’m the type of guy where, put me in the spot where the odds are stacked against me. Please, I like that. That’s where I feel great. Back me in a corner. I like that. That’s when I come at you even harder.